The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 20

That night, I lay on my bed and pondered the facts.

Here was the main thing that occupied my mind.

None of us, supposedly, told anyone about winning the lottery. If that were true, there would have been no way for anyone to know we won the money (unless somebody hacked the lottery organization’s system, in which case, they would have found out by now). We maintained the same lifestyle. We didn’t do anything that might have made anyone wonder or suspect that we could have possibly been lottery winners.

If that were the case, could it be an inside job? Was it done by someone in the family? Evidently, I wasn’t the perp, unless I suffered from a dissociative identity disorder and my other personality committed the crimes. But that was highly unlikely since no one had ever mentioned me having such a disease.

So… was it Kyle?

Did he have our parents’ login information and a way to access the money? What if he surreptitiously snooped around their bedroom, looking for the information, and found it? That would satisfactorily explain all the mysterious intruder incidents. If the intruder were actually Kyle, of course there wouldn’t have been any sign of forced entry. The alarm wouldn’t have gone off, either. But could he have written a note calling Mom a bitch? Could he have put a dead raccoon in the kitchen trash can to drive her insane? No, he couldn’t have. Absolutely not. He was a weird person who never showed his emotions, but I knew he loved our mom to death. Even if our planet Earth were colonized by aliens, he couldn’t have done something like that to Mom. I knew that much.

Was the note intended for me? Surely, we weren’t best friends. He could have secretly held a grudge against me, thinking I was the biggest obstacle standing between Sophia and him. Although it was hard for me to think he’d go that far, it wasn’t like the chances of it happening were absolutely zero. Perhaps there was a 0.9 % possibility, which still counted as a possibility as long as it wasn’t zero. In fact, there might have been a valid reason for the phrase, Love is blind, which originated as far back as the year 1405. Being smitten by love could have indeed changed him into a vicious monster. Perhaps his latest motto was: Kill everything and everybody that dared to stand in his way.

But then what? How on earth was that note involved with stealing our parents’ money? So one day, did he suddenly decide to steal their money and exact his revenge on me at the same time?

Nope. That didn’t quite sound like a plausible hypothesis.

In any event, the IP address didn’t belong to his computer. Sure, he could have used any computer to access the account, but it was traced to one that was physically located in Paraguay. Could he have been living a double life as a world-scale criminal? Could he have been so well-connected and properly equipped in his global crime network that he conspired with organized criminals operating in Paraguay?

Really? Did I actually think my geeky, king-of-the-nerds brother, whose most vital component of life was a collection of video games, led a double life?

No.

But at the same time, I had no clue what went on behind closed doors. It was clear as water before, when he was anchored to the living room 24/7 in front of the TV to play his video games, but not after he bought his own TV. His double life could have begun since then. It was possible.

But what about the steel-jawed trap? Why in the world would he try to amputate his own foot? Well, let’s not forget, though, that he didn’t actually get hurt. He could have set it up that way so nobody would suspect him. He was weird as hell but not stupid. He could have worn those heavy duty boots for the express purpose of sticking it into the trap for show.

But wait. The pictures. The missing pictures from the photo albums. If they were pictures of Sophia, I would have clapped my hands together in triumph and said, Yup, it was Kyle! but they weren’t pictures of Sophia. They were our family pictures. There was no suitable explanation as to why he would have removed them from the albums.

Most of all, there was no way he’d ever try to poison Mom.

Unless he really wanted the money.

He was, after all, one of the beneficiaries. As beneficiaries, we had no access to the trust fund until the grantor’s death—Mom’s death.

What about Dad?

That was flat-out simple: no freaking way.

He and Mom were like one. A team. They were married and their assets were fused together—her money was his money. He and Mom were appointed trustees of the family trust. He wouldn’t steal the money if he wanted it. He’d simply withdraw whatever he needed. Besides, he was the first to discover the missing money.

But, say, hypothetically speaking—with the craziest amount of hypothesis—it was him. What if he suddenly turned into a completely different person and wanted to feel and behave like a rich man just once? Maybe he wanted to spend a crazy amount of money, living like a king for a day. And of course, knowing Mom, he couldn’t tell her about that desire of his. Then yes, in that case, he could have stolen the money.

But it was an incredible stretch for me to believe he could transform into a different person so suddenly, and, as far as I knew, he was not tech-savvy enough to manage a cyber crime. Sure, he could go online and set up new accounts and stuff, but there was no way he could do all the criminal stuff, like creating a dummy account with a stolen identity, that type of thing.

But what if he hired someone? What if he found a world-class criminal to do the work?

Okay, then what would his plans be? Was he so confident as to think he’d never get caught? Then after that one glorious day, was his plan to continue living a modest life with Mom as if nothing happened? Would he really commit the crime just to live like a king for a day?

But wait. Maybe he didn’t plan to continue living a modest life with Mom. Maybe he intended to live like a king forever. He did try to off her by poisoning her, didn’t he?

However, I instantly recognized two big holes in that theory.

One, he was on the road when those incidents happened. And two, realistically speaking, we’d be traveling to Jupiter like going to the post office, for him to change that much.

Although people did say money was a malicious master that could transform anyone into a monster overnight…

Now the craziest thought of all… could Mom have done it? It was always she who encountered the mysterious events. She could have easily moved around, hidden, or broken things, and claimed there was an intruder. She could have written the note, too. It was typed, so handwriting analysts couldn’t detect the identity of the writer.

What would be her motive though? Was it so we would take her worrying more seriously and realize the gravity of the situation? Was she trying to stress how important it was to keep our promise of being extremely cautious and not giving anyone a reason to suspect we were the winner? It was true that we all thought Mom had been unnecessarily paranoid, and she knew it. But come on! She’d even called the police, and, let’s not forget, Kyle’s foot was almost dismembered—although she must have known he always wore those boots when he went outside. Would she really go that far though? Just to make sure we got her point? Unless she had a secret, evil twin who was responsible for doing all the devilish acts, it was impossible for me to believe in the plausibility of that. Besides, what about the stolen money? Cyber criminal theory didn’t apply to her.

Then what if one of us had inadvertently broken our promise and told someone?

Once it got leaked out to even one person, it could have traveled quickly and from there, somebody could have planned and committed the crime.

Who could have broken our promise?

First of all, it wasn’t me. Again, unless I unknowingly possessed a dissociative identity disorder and my other personality committed it all without my knowledge.

It wasn’t Mom, either. She was the one who insisted we not leak the information. I thought highly of her a little bit more than to ever suspect she could be that hypocritical.

Was it Kyle or Dad? I had to admit, if this were an Easter egg hunt, Kyle was hot and Dad was cold. Anyone with a decent amount of brain cells would have agreed with me. Dad and Mom were like one person divided into two physical bodies. If Mom made a decision on something, that meant they did. The two of them were always on the same page without even trying. So almost naturally, Dad was out.

So, it had to be Kyle.

He could have mentioned it to someone at Nerd It.

Or perhaps, it could have been a completely random act. Burglaries happened all the time. It was possible some burglar arbitrarily picked our house to rob out of the blue. Upon breaking in, perhaps they saw my parents’ bank account information, and logged in, where they saw millions of dollars sitting in the bank, so they decided to steal some. That would have been fairly plausible.

However, I had to admit, there was too much improbability in that theory as well.

One: why would any burglar randomly pick the smallest house in the smallest town to rob? Our house broadcasted No money! in anyone’s eyes.

Two: if someone decided to rob a house, they’d rob it. Insignificant things like magnets and mugs weren’t the items they’d take. They wouldn’t certainly leave any note to say something such as, I’m watching you, bitch. They were the bitches by robbing somebody else’s house! And I assumed they knew that very well.

Three: why didn’t the alarm go off?

Well, the system could have been impaired. I knew Mom tested it quite often with the customer service on the line, and it always worked whenever she tested it, but you never knew.

In any case, random burglary wasn’t a plausible scenario, either.

After all, only one thing seemed to be true to me—whoever snooped around the house must have known about the lottery winning, and there had to be a connection between the snooper and the cyber thief, if they weren’t the same person.

Trying to appease the itch in my brain, I turned on the TV. The local news was talking about Jerry but there were no new leads to his murder. The reporter kept repeating the same information.

Then a crazy thought crept into my mind.

Did Kyle kill Jerry?

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